From exotic specimen to UK garden staple

Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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My word, isn’t it wonderful to see the camellias in bloom?

After all that rain, which we hated, the camellias came up trumps because they love the rain.

Camellia celebrates the name of Joseph Kamel, a Jesuit who travelled in the East in perilous times.

Most people pronounce the name as cameeelia, but it should be camellia because that is how Kamel is pronounced.

The first camellias were introduced into the United Kingdom in 1792 on a ship owned by the East India Company and we have a very important connection here because Sir George Staunton grew them in his conservatory at Leigh Park. They were also grown indoors at Kew Gardens.

After years in the conservatory at Leigh Park they were planted outside and the original specimens can sill be seen at the Staunton estate, a great place to visit.

Camellia sinensis is the genus grown to produce the tea we drink. It is widely grown in China and Sri Lanka, but there is a tea farm here in the UK.

Camellias are the most popular evergreen shrub. There are more camellias growing in gardens than rhododendrons because they flower for such a long time and although they prefer acid soils, they are excellent in wet ground.

They flower from January right up until May.

Although they love an acid soil they will grow in an area where acid compost has been introduced.

A black polythene sheet can be used to line a large bowl-shaped area, the camellia is planted and the roots are buried in the acid compost and top-dressed each spring with a two-inch layer of acid compost.

In pots and containers they are excellent evergreens on balconies, as long as they are protected from strong winds.

They are also brilliant on patios, in leaky greenhouses and freezing cold conservatories and the great thing is that they can be moved around to accommodate summer-flowering plants.

At your garden centre, you will see lots of plants growing in pots under glass and they are in flower.

We need to choose a nice well-balanced bush with lots of plump flower buds on the tips of the branches.

Dig out a large bowl shape and break up the base. This shape will allow the fibrous roots to spread. The root system is fibrous, there are no deep roots.

Avoid planting in an area where there is early morning sun because the frosts will damage the blooms.